Two of Europe's most prolific marksmen come face to face in La Liga on Sunday night, when Lionel Messi's table-topping Barcelona host Radamel Falcao's second-place Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.

The meeting of Spain's top two sides this weekend has the potential to be an absolute belter. Barca are unbeaten after 15 games, with 14 wins and one draw, while Atletico have forced a gap between Tito Vilanova's side and their city rivals Real Madrid in third, with 12 wins, one draw and just two defeats.

Another loss for Los Rojiblancos, though, would allow the reigning champions to close the gap to just two points, providing Jose Mourinho's men beat struggling Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, leaving Barcelona to extend their lead to nine points at the La Liga summit.

Ahead of the encounter, all eyes, understandably, will be on Messi and Falcao, who laid down their credentials in emphatic style last weekend. The Argentine star scored twice to secure three points in Seville against Real Betis - his brace taking him beyond Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year.

The 25-year-old - who recently became a father to baby Thiago - extended his 2012 haul to 88 with another double in the Kings Cup on Wednesday, and he returns to league action well clear at the top of La Liga's goalscoring chart with 23 goals. 
 

Position Team PL W D L F A GD PTS
1 Barcelona 15 14 1 0 50 17 33 43
2 Atletico Madrid 15 12 1 2 35 13 22 37


The meeting of Spain's top two sides this weekend has the potential to be an absolute belter. Barca are unbeaten after 15 games, with 14 wins and one draw, while Atletico have forced a gap between Tito Vilanova's side and their city rivals Real Madrid in third, with 12 wins, one draw and just two defeats.

Another loss for Los Rojiblancos, though, would allow the reigning champions to close the gap to just two points, providing Jose Mourinho's men beat struggling Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, leaving Barcelona to extend their lead to nine points at the La Liga summit.

Ahead of the encounter, all eyes, understandably, will be on Messi and Falcao, who laid down their credentials in emphatic style last weekend. The Argentine star scored twice to secure three points in Seville against Real Betis - his brace taking him beyond Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year.

The 25-year-old - who recently became a father to baby Thiago - extended his 2012 haul to 88 with another double in the Kings Cup on Wednesday, and he returns to league action well clear at the top of La Liga's goalscoring chart with 23 goals.

Meanwhile, Falcao fired five goals against Deportivo La Coruna in Atletico's 6-0 victory at the Vicente Calderon Stadium last Sunday, becoming the first player to score five goals in a La Liga game since Fernando Morientes in 2002, and taking his season's tally to 16 goals in 15 games.

When comparing the two players, Messi and Falcao have very different playing styles. The three-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner often finds the net after weaving runs from outside the penalty area, that leave opposition defenders floundering. The Colombian hit man is more of a traditional striker who operates inside the box to devastating effect.


Barcelona have won the last four matches between the two sides, Atletico losing 5-0 the last time they played away at Camp Nou, with Messi bagging a hat-trick. In the same fixture the year before, it was 3-0, with the Argentinean bagging the lot. The last match at the Calderon was closer, 2-1, but a second of genius from a free-kick saw Messi break red-and-white hearts yet again.

Until last season's clash Atletico had won three on the trot at home, but in Catalonia they have not recorded victory since 2005/06 when Fernando Torres netted a brace to help them to a 3-1 win.


After a lacklustre display in the Bernabeu a couple of weeks ago, Falcao will be eager to deliver a performance befitting of his burgeoning reputation. With every sparkling display his valuation seems to skyrocket, as a host of clubs continue to vie for his signature.

Messi might be the golden boy of world football, with a goalscoring ratio of one every hour, but Falcao is the deadliest finisher, netting once in every three attempts. It won't be a surprise to see both South American superstars end up on the scoresheet on Sunday evening, and continue to thrill fans the world over. Goals are guaranteed.

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